Archives for posts with tag: different peoples is different (duh!)

so the mother of all meta-analyses of twin studies and the heritability of human traits was published the other day: “Meta-analysis of the heritability of human traits based on fifty years of twin studies” [pdf].

the authors looked at “17,804 traits from 2,748 publications including 14,558,903 partly dependent twin pairs, virtually all published twin studies of complex traits.” 14.5+ MILLION twin pairs! as james thompson said, this study pretty much represents “the mother of ‘F*** Off’ samples.” (~_^) in future, if someone says to you that twin studies were debunked a long time ago, blah, blah, blah, just point them to this paper.

and the upshot is: we are not blank slates. we never were.

from the paper, “[A]cross all traits the reported heritability is 49%.” in other words, these researchers found that pretty much half of the variance in all sorts of physical and behavioral traits in humans — the differences that we see between people — can be accounted for by genetics.

here’s a key table from the paper. i took the liberty of jiggling it around a bit so it would fit better on the blog (h2 is what you should be looking at here — that’s narrow sense heritabilty):

twin studies meta-analysis

the press has picked this up as there being an even split between nature and nurture, genes versus “the environment.” here, for example, from the huffington post*:

“Nature Or Nurture? The Long-Running Debate May Finally Be Settled”

“It’s an age-old debate: do our genes make us who we are, or is it the environment in which we were raised?

“There’s long been agreement that both ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ play some role in determining many aspects of our physical and mental selves, from our height and weight to our intelligence and disposition. But as to which plays the bigger role in shaping us, scientists have never seemed to agree.

“That debate may now be over, thanks to a sweeping analysis of studies conducted around the world for more than five decades. The analysis — involving more than 14.5 million twin pairs from 39 countries — indicates that nature and nurture are virtually tied.

“Across all of our traits, in other words, genes and environment exert equal influence.”

yeeeessss…but what is “the environment”? on hearing that most people will think of things like reading bedtime stories to kids or playing mozart to your unborn fetus. but those sorts of things are decidedly not what the environment is in this context. from kevin mitchell of wiring the brain:

i’ve blogged this before, but i think we all need to read it again — from steven pinker on “the environment”:

“Even the technical sense of ‘environment’ used in quantitative behavioral genetics is perversely confusing. Now, there is nothing wrong with partitioning phenotypic variance into components that correlate with genetic variation (heritability) and with variation among families (‘shared environment’). The problem comes from the so-called ‘nonshared’ or ‘unique environmental influences.’ This consists of all the variance that is attributable neither to genetic nor familiar variation. In most studies, it’s calculated as 1 – (heritability + shared environment). Practically, you can think of it as the differences between identical twins who grow up in the same home. They share their genes, parents, older and younger siblings, home, school, peers, and neighborhood. So what could make them different? Under the assumption that behavior is a product of genes plus environment, it must be something in the environment of one that is not in the environment of the other.

But this category really should be called ‘miscellaneous/unknown,’ because it has nothing necessarily to do with any measurable aspect of the environment, such as one sibling getting the top bunk bed and the other the bottom, or a parent unpredictably favoring one child, or one sibling getting chased by a dog, coming down with a virus, or being favored by a teacher. These influences are purely conjectural, and studies looking for them have failed to find them. The alternative is that this component actually consists of the effects of chance – new mutations, quirky prenatal effects, noise in brain development, and events in life with unpredictable effects.

“Stochastic effects in development are increasingly being recognized by epidemiologists, frustrated by such recalcitrant phenomena such as nonagenarian pack-a-day smokers and identical twins discordant for schizophrenia, homosexuality, and disease outcomes. They are increasingly forced to acknowledge that God plays dice with our traits. Developmental biologists have come to similar conclusions. The bad habit of assuming that anything not classically genetic must be ‘environmental’ has blinkered behavioral geneticists (and those who interpret their findings) into the fool’s errand of looking for environmental effects for what may be randomness in developmental processes.”

and more from kevin mitchell:

“Just because some trait is not genetic does not mean it is not innate. If we are talking about how the brain gets wired, any number of prenatal environmental factors are known to have large effects. More interestingly, however, and probably a greater source of variance across the population, is intrinsic developmental variation. Wiring the brain is a highly complex procedure, reliant on cellular processes that are, in engineering terms, inherently ‘noisy’. Running the programme from the same starting point (a specific genotype) does not generate exactly the same output (the phenotype) every time. The effects of this noise are readily apparent at the anatomical level, when examining the impact of specific mutations, for example. In many cases, the phenotypic consequences are quite variable between genetically identical organisms, or even on two sides of the same brain. (If you want to see direct evidence of such developmental variation, take a directly face-on photograph of yourself, cut it in half and make mirror-image copies of the left and right sides. You will be amazed how different the two resultant faces are).

If the way the brain is wired is determined, not just by the starting genotype, but, to a large extent by chance events during development, then it is reasonable to expect this variation to be manifest in many psychological traits. Such traits may thus be far more innate than behavioural genetics studies alone would suggest.

in other words, it’s NOT genes + environment (or nature + nurture) — not as most people would think of it anyway. it’s genes + shared environment (which, since it’s shared, i.e. the same for the individuals in question, oughtn’t to make a difference, right?) + nonshared environment (which can include de novo mutations and development noise, which also may be heritable! iow, variation itself might be a genetic trait.). not much room for the effects of nurture here.

so, when you see a figure like 51% for “environmental” causes behind the differences we see in traits between people, remember that that very much includes biological causes like new mutations that are particular to individuals and developmental “noise,” which again may ultimately be regulated by genes.

(and, no, it’s not epigenetics either! see here and here and here.)

h/t once again to jayman for cluing me in on this in the first place! (^_^)
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*to give credit where credit is due, the huff post journalist did mention that part of what’s included in “the environment” is measurement error. that is correct. edit: see comment below about measurement error. so the 49% heritabilty figure should be considered a very conservative figure.

p.s. – there’s even a dedicated website where you can have a look at all the heritability numbers for yourself. enjoy!

see also: Gone with the Wind from dr. james thompson, Nature, nurture and noise from kevin mitchell, and About Developmental Noise and Environmental Hereditarianism from jayman.

previously: it’s not nature and nurture…

(note: comments do not require an email. the blank slate.)

via everyone on twitter today:

“ISIS fighters complain they are not being chosen to blow themselves up on suicide missions because leaders’ friends and family get put to the top of the waiting list”

“- Chechen militant angry that Saudis are snubbing them for bombing runs
– Jihadi complains that they are ‘letting their relatives go to front of the line’
– Said ISIS leader Bakr al-Baghdadi’s brother had carried out suicide attack

“Islamic State fighters claim they are not getting the chance to blow themselves up because they are being bumped down the suicide-bomber waiting list by nepotistic leaders.

“A Chechen militant has complained that Saudi jihadis are favouring their own friends and family for bombing missions.

“Kamil Abu Sultan ad-Daghestani said fighters were becoming increasingly angry after being left languishing on the waiting list for months.

“Ironically, he said some militants were dying on the battlefield before getting the chance to carry out a bombing.

“Abu Sultan’s complaint, was posted on a new website named Qonah which is said to be linked to a group connected with Akhmed Chatayev (Akhmad al-Shishani), a Chechen militant in charge of the Yarmouk Battalion of ISIS.

“‘Amir [Leader] Akhmed al-Shishani told me about a young lad who went to Iraq for a suicide mission and he went there because in Sham [Syria] there is a veeeeery long queue [of several thousand people],’ he wrote.

“He said the fighter eventually gave up after three months and returned to Syria, it was reported by Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.

“The young militant complained that he would only be able to secure a bombing mission through a ‘blat’ with the Saudi leaders – a Russian slang term meaning connections.

“Abu Sultan wrote that the boy said: ‘Those Saudis have got things sewn up, they won’t let anyone in, they are letting their relatives go to the front of the line using blat.’

“He said the only to deal with the ‘corruption’ was to make a direct appeal to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“He recently noted on another site that Baghdadi’s own brother and the son of his second-in-command had carried out suicide bombings.

“The leader’s cousin also reportedly blew himself up at a checkpoint in Iraq in April….”

heh! (~_^)

see also A Boratesque story from ISIS-land: Chechen ISIS fighters being cheated out of paradise by Saudi nepotism from ed west.

btw, buy ed’s latest kindle single!: 1215 and All That: A very, very short history of Magna Carta and King John (and @amazon.co.uk).

(note: comments do not require an email. the people’s front.)

on christ’s arrest in the garden of gethsemane from the gospel of luke 22:39-51 (the revised standard version):

“Jesus went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed…. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, ‘Why do you sleep? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’ And when those who were about him saw what would follow, they said, ‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?’ And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his [right] ear. But Jesus said: ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him.”

and the same (sorta!) story from the heliand, an old saxon poem from the early 800s commissioned to aid in the conversion of the saxons on the continent to christianity (“Song 57: Christ’s Deep Fear Before Battle, His Last Salute in the Garden” and “Song 58: Christ the Cheiftain is Captured, Peter the Mighty Swordsman Defends Him Boldly”):

“Christ’s warrior companions saw warriors coming up the mountain making a great din, angry armed men. Judas the hate-filled man was showing them the way. The enemy clan, the Jews, were marching behind. The warriors marched forward, the grim Jewish army, until they had come to Christ. There he stood, the famous chieftain. Christ’s followers, wisemen deeply distressed by this hostile action, held their position in front. They spoke to their chieftain: ‘My lord chieftain’ they said, ‘if it should now be your will that we be impaled here on their spearpoints, wounded by their weapons, then nothing would be so good to us as to die here, pale from mortal wounds, for our chieftain.’ Then Simon Peter, the mighty, the noble swordman, flew into a rage. His mind was in such turmoil that he could not speak a single word. His heart became intensely bitter because they wanted to tie up his lord there. So he strode over angrily, that very daring thegn, to stand in front of his commander, right in front of his lord. No doubting in his mind, no fearful hesitation in his chest, he drew his blade and struck straight ahead at the first man of the enemy with all the strength in his hands, so that Malcous was cut and wounded on the right side by the sword. His ear was chopped off. He was so badly wounded in the head that his cheek and ear burst open with the mortal wound. Blood gushed out, pouring from the wound. The men stood back. They were afraid of the slash of the sword.”

(~_^)

pre-christian germanics were clannish. very clannish!

presumably, this is the sort of thing discussed by james russell in his The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity, another book which i haven’t read.

here’s jesus the warrior for you, from the stuttgart psalter, also from the early 800s:

Stuttgart_Psalter_fol23

btw, i transcribed those passages from lecture 15 of the Early Middle Ages audio course from The Great Courses. excellent course!

(note: comments do not require an email. jedi jesus.)

william hamilton, considered to be one of the — if not the — greatest evolutionary theorists since darwin, had this to say:

“The incursions of barbaric pastoralists seem to do civilizations less harm in the long run than one might expect. Indeed, two dark ages and renaissances in Europe suggest a recurring pattern in which a renaissance follows an incursion by about 800 years. It may even be suggested that certain genes or traditions of pastoralists revitalize the conquered people with an ingredient of progress which tends to die out in a large panmictic population for the reasons already discussed. I have in mind altruism itself, or the part of the altruism which is perhaps better described as self-sacrificial daring. By the time of the renaissance it may be that the mixing of genes and cultures (or of cultures alone if these are the only vehicles, which I doubt) has continued long enough to bring the old mercantile thoughtfulness and the infused daring into conjunction in a few individuals who then find courage for all kinds of inventive innovation against the resistance of established thought and practice. Often, however, the cost in fitness of such altruism and sublimated pugnacity to the individuals concerned is by no means metaphorical, and the benefits to fitness, such as they are, go to a mass of individuals whose genetic correlation with the innovator must be slight indeed. Thus civilization probably slowly reduces its altruism of all kinds, including the kinds needed for cultural creativity (see also Eshel 1972).”

so hamilton clearly thought that biology and human biodiversity strongly influence culture and history, including the broad movements of history like renaissances or maybe even reformations or enlightenments, etc. and he thought that outbreeding, specifically too much outbreeding (i.e. panmictic populations), and presumably inbreeding too, relate to the selection for altruistic behaviors…and, therefore, certain aspects of cultures and history, etc. (remember that there’s more to hbd than just iq. (~_^) ) i dunno, maybe i and other hbd-ers are crazy (if so, we’re in GOOD company!), but this just makes intuitive sense to me. as john derbyshire said [15:00]:

“…if dimensions of the individual human personality are heritable, then society is just a vector sum of a lot of individual personalities.”

i like the big, probably impossible to answer fully questions: where does culture come from? where do institutions come from? where do renaissances come from? i don’t have the answers to those questions. nor am i under any illusions that i’ll ever be able to answer them. but am i very certain that they cannot be answered without taking into consideration human biology and biodiversity along with more conventional explanations drawn from history, economics, etc., and so i like to periodically bring them up.

so, if you happen to be new here, if you don’t like questioning — on every level — or biological explanations applied to The Big Questions, i’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. sorry. for my fellow hbd-ers — see you back here later in the week! (^_^)

previously: renaissances
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p.s. – btw, my vacation has been extended by a week (long story), so i’ll be back properly next week. sorry for the delay! (*^_^*)

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there’s been a theory floated for a few years now that there was a sort of apartheid system in early anglo-saxon england in which the angles and saxons and jutes didn’t really mix with the native britons. or vice versa. from thomas, stumpf, and härke:

“Reproductive isolation and differential social status along ethnic lines is a frequent, temporary consequence of conquest and settlement, the best-known modern case being the Apartheid system in South Africa. In the post-Roman period, intermarriage between dominant immigrants and subject natives was banned in Visigothic France and Spain in the late fifth and early sixth century (King 1972). The Normans in eleventh- and twelfth-century England operated a conquest society in which the native English and Welsh had a lower legal status than Normans (Garnett 1985), and intermarriage, where it happened, was predominantly unidirectional, i.e. Norman men marrying English women. In Anglo-Saxon England, elements of an apartheid-like society can also be perceived in a Wessex law code of the seventh century which distinguishes clearly between Saxons and ‘Welsh’ (Britons) and gives the former a significantly higher legal status, some two centuries after the initial immigration (Whitelock 1979). Archaeological and skeletal data (Härke 1990, 1992), as well as textual evidence (Woolf, 2004), have been used to suggest a situation of limited intermarriage between immigrant Anglo-Saxons and native Britons until the seventh century when this distinction began to break down.”

for more on this theory, see: Anglo-Saxon immigration and ethnogenesis.

now it seems as though the recently published genetic study by leslie et al. may back up this idea. from the Supplementary Information [pdf – pg. 18]:

The Cent./S England inferred admixture date is older, at around 1200 years ago. This is moderately, but significantly, more recent than the historically accepted time of approximately 1400 years ago (around 600) for the Anglo-Saxon migration into England. This discrepancy is unlikely to be explained by errors in our human generation time (we used 28 years) because an unlikely generation time of 33 years or higher would be required to account for this difference. Instead, an important point is that the date of admixture cannot be earlier than the arrival of a group, but can be later if mixing did not occur for some period (e.g. if the Anglo-Saxon community remained distinct for some period after arrival), or if mixing took place gradually, and initially at a relatively slow rate.”

so, they’re saying that intermarriages between the anglo-saxons and the native britons didn’t really get going until the 800s.

both the anglo-saxons and probably the native britons (presuming they were rather like the native irish and scots), like every other pre-christian northern european group, married their cousins to some degree or another. we know for certain that the anglo-saxons did, because augustine of canterbury wrote several frantic letters to pope gregory the great about the problem (he viewed this as a problem since already by this point in the 600s the church had banned marriages to close cousins).

across the channel in the frankish kingdoms, cousin marriage didn’t became socially unacceptable until the 800s, even though there were local bans issued by bishops in the frankish kingdoms as early as the 500s. as i wrote in a previous post:

from “An Unsolved Riddle: Early Medieval Incest Legislation” in Franks and Alamanni in the Merovingian Period: An Ethnographic Perspective (1998), a collection of papers from an “historical archaeoethnological” conference [pgs. 109-110]:

“In the course of the eighth century the Frankish campaign against incest gained momentum, aided by papal decrees and letters which began to circulate in the North (De Jong 1989:38-41). When it came to blood relations papal guidelines were more radical than Frankish episcopal and royal decrees, but in other respects — such as spiritual kinship — Rome and the Frankish leadership saw eye to eye right from the beginning. Letters sent from Rome to Boniface reveal an increasingly rigid papal position. Gregory II forbade all unions between blood relations and affinal kin (‘*quamdiu se agnoscunt affinitate propinquos*’), but permitted the recently converted a marriage ‘*post quartam generationem*'; his successor Gregory III withdrew any such privilege, assuring Boniface that marriage within the seventh *generatio* was out of the question….

“In practice…it did not make any difference whether one forbade marriage ‘until the seventh *generatio*’ (Gregory III), or proclaimed an unspecified ban on all kinswomen and affines (Gregory II). Both meant the same: marriage and kindred did not go together. Pope Zachary expressed this clearly in 743, stating that no Christians were permitted to marry if they were in any way related to each other (Werminghoff 1904:19-21). Avoidance of kin-marriage had become one of the defining criteria of Christianity….”

by the 800s [pg. 120]:

By the ninth century, a marriage in the third *generatio* [i.e. second cousins – h.chick] had become scandalous, but the fourth generation remained a viable option, along with a whole range of more distant kin (Le Jan 1995:316-17). This pattern persisted well into the tenth and eleventh centuries.”

i’m not one hundred percent certain, but i think that this shift to the regular avoidance of cousin marriage by the franks probably had something to do with the establishment of parish churches in the 700 and 800s by pepin the short and charlemagne. once there was “a church in every village,” the message that cousin marriage was not permitted would’ve been more readily heard, and, perhaps, more easily enforced (by the local priest).

i don’t know anything about the establishment of parishes in england (yet), but perhaps the english — the anglo-saxons and britons — were on a similar trajectory as the franks with regard to cousin marriage. perhaps they, too, didn’t really start to take the bans seriously until sometime in the 800s, despite there having been some very early laws forbidding cousin marriage in some of the anglo-saxon kingdoms (like in the late 600s in kent). if there was such a delay in avoiding cousin marriage in england in the seventh and eighth centuries, then there wouldn’t have been much intermarriage between the anglo-saxons and britons during those centuries simply because they all would’ve been still mostly marrying their own cousins or other close kin (i.e. fellow clan or kindred members). if so, then genetic exchange between the groups would’ve become much more likely once cousin marriage began to be consistently avoided. maybe it took the church and its bans on cousin marriage to end anglo-saxon apartheid.

just a thought. Further Research is RequiredTM. (^_^)

previously: free cornwall now! and anglo-saxon mating patterns

(note: comments do not require an email. anglo-saxon rings.)

here’s a map (on the left) of anglo-saxon burial sites of the 5th to 7th centuries from “Anglo-Saxon immigration and ethnogenesis” compared to the distribution of the eastern, central, and southern english genetic cluster (red squares on map to right) from leslie et al. who found between 10-40% of the ancestry of those english to be anglo-saxon:

harcke - anglo-saxon burial sites 5th to 7th-8th centuries

that is all! (^_^)

previously: free cornwall now!

(note: comments do not require an email. anglo-saxon burial: lady and her cow.)

the long-awaited genetic ancestry mapping of the u.k. by the wellcome trust has finally been completed (hurrah!) — it’s very, very cool! — and it confirms what everyone has always known: the cornish are different! (~_^)

from nature news: UK mapped out by genetic ancestry“A map of the United Kingdom shows how individuals cluster based on their genetics, with a striking relationship to the geography of the country”:

u.k. genetic ancestry mapping

as you can see, all the calls for cornish independence have been justified! the good folks of cornwall are their own little genetic subpopulation, even distinct from their neighbors in devon (as they’ve known all along). so there! =P

to sum up the major findings:

– the welsh appear to be genetically quite different from the rest of the subpopulations in britain, and so the authors reckon they are the most like the earliest hunter-gatherers who migrated to britain at the end of the last ice age.

– the analyses suggest that there was a substantial migration across the channel after the original post-ice-age settlers but before roman times. white british people today have thirty percent (30%) of their dna ancestry from germanic populations, and people in southern and central england share 40% of their dna with the french (again, this relatedness is pre-norman). there’s also substantial relatedness to danes and belgians due to these early migrations. these migrations had little impact in wales.

– there wasn’t a single “celtic” genetic group in britain before the later invasions of the anglo-saxons, etc. the scots, northern irish, welsh, and cornish are some of the most different from each other genetically. the cornish (free cornwall!) are more similar genetically to other english groups than they are to the welsh, for instance.

– the english in eastern, central, and southern england (all those red squares) are pretty much one, relatively homogeneous, genetic group having significant genetic contributions — between 10-40% of their total ancestry — from the anglo-saxons. this strongly indicates that the invading anglo-saxons intermarried with the existing populations and did not replace them 100%.

– fantastically, the danish vikings (of the danelaw of the ninth century) do NOT appear to have left much dna behind at all. their numbers must’ve been small and/or most of them left (or were killed) at some point.

– the cornish (free cornwall!) and devonians are distinct genetic subgroups, and the division between the two groups lies pretty much at the boundaries between the two counties.

– the subpopulation of west yorkshire look like they’re the descendants of the people of elmet (the last of the brittonic kingdoms to hold out against the anglo-saxons)!

– the cumbrians and the northumbrians are distinct from each other, the people of west yorkshire, and the rest of the english.

– yes, the english-speaking population of pembrokeshire is genetically distinct from the rest of the welsh.

– the orkney islanders are the most genetically distinct of all the subgroups having 25% norwegian dna. again, though, the viking invaders mated with the locals and didn’t replace them 100%.

dál riata is apparent on the map there, as are the lowland scots and border reievers contributions to the ulster scots population.

from the telegraph:

“Geneticist Professor Sir Walter Bodmer of Oxford University said: ‘What it shows is the extraordinary stability of the British population. Britain hasn’t changed much since 600AD.

“‘When we plotted the genetics on a map we got this fantastic parallel between areas and genetic similarity.

“‘It was an extraordinary result, one which was much more than I expected. We see areas like Devon and Cornwall where the difference lies directly on the boundary.’

“Professor Mark Robinson, of Oxford University’s department of archaeology added: ‘The genetic make-up we see is really one of perhaps 1400 years ago.'”
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for the purposes of this blog, one of the most interesting things is that lack of a danish viking genetic legacy in england. one of the things we’ve been puzzling about here is where on earth the puritans came from, and one of the ideas that has been bandied about has been that perhaps they were the descendants of the danes, since the danish vikings controlled east anglia and that’s where the purtians were from. that idea doesn’t seem to hold water anymore.

(there’s something else in the paper that may or may not, kinda-sorta be of interest regarding the general topic of this blog, but i’m going to address that in a separate post.)

speaking of the puritans and albion’s seed (and american nations), jayman’s already tweeted this!:

(^_^) so there you go.
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i think that’s everything for now. there’s a LOT to take in from this research. i look forward to what razib and greg cochran will have to say on the paper.

for now, for more info, have a look at these!:

UK mapped out by genetic ancestry: “Finest-scale DNA survey of any country reveals historical migrations.”
– the original research article (behind a stupid paywall): The fine-scale genetic structure of the British population. the supplementary information file [pdf] looks like it’s a good read.
Britons still live in Anglo-Saxon tribal kingdoms, Oxford University finds: “A new genetic map of Britain shows that there has been little movement between areas of Britain which were former tribal kingoms in Anglo-Saxon England.”
Genetic study reveals 30% of white British DNA has German ancestry: “Analysis over 20 years reveals heavy Anglo-Saxon influence, with French and Danish DNA coming from earlier migrations than the Normans or Vikings.”
Study Reveals Genetic Path of Modern Britons: “Researchers found 17 clusters, based on genetic relatedness, in the modern British population.”
Scientists discover genetic “border” between Devon and Cornwall
– from dienekes: British origins (Leslie et al. 2015)

(note: comments do not require an email. free cornwall now!)

we’ve all seen headlines like this…

The 13-year-old Belgian boy fighting in Syria

…only to click through and find that this “belgian’s” name is younes abaaoud and his parents are (or at least his father is) originally from morocco. i know that most of the members of the press are hopelessly politically correct and that they must want to obscure the origins of people like abaaoud — or they really believe it when they say this kid is belgian, which is an even scarier thought — i know this, and i’ve known it for quite a while now, but it still irritates me when i read such headlines. it irritates me because it’s such misinformation. it’s unhelpful. when i read the word “beligan,” i picture a short, round little man with a curious moustache. or at least an obviously north european person making waffles.

we have words for things — give names to things — for a reason: to help in identifying those things and to communicate something about them. and — and perhaps i am and have always been misguided about this — i thought the idea of naming things was to aid in the communication process, not make it all more confused. but i’m beginning to think i might’ve been wrong about this.

at the very least, i think someone like abaaoud — a second-generation immigrant to belgium with (i don’t think) any belgian or european ancestry whatsoever — ought to be called a moroccan-belgian. to aid in the communication process.

since it’s st. patrick’s day (woo-hoo!), i’m going to use ireland as an example. (disclaimer: all of my recent ancestors came from ireland. i’m pretty sure that a very large part of my ancestry is “native irish,” but there’s also some amount of scots and maybe even some norman. i doubt there’s much anglo-irishness in me.)

once upon a time, we had names for the different populations in ireland, and they were actively used: the gaelic or native irish (the people(s) who were in ireland before the viking and norman invasions), the hiberno-normans, the old english, the ulster scots, the anglo-irish. there were even names for rival viking groups at one time (names that were eventually reused for some of the normans). more and more nowadays, however, i see everyone from ireland being called simply “irish.” needless to say, i think we should keep right on using the variety of more specific terms we have.

i can hear some of you objecting already: “but hbd chick! it doesn’t matter anymore! those norman and anglo settlers arrived in ireland so long ago!” oh, really? [links added by me – fine gael and fianna fáil are two of the largest political parties in the republic of ireland]:

“FF and FG tribal split traced back to 12th century”

“THERE ARE real tribal differences between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that date back hundreds of years before the foundation of the State, according to two political scientists.

“An analysis of the names of all of the TDs [members of parliament] who have served in the Dáil shows that Fine Gael TDs are more likely to come from Norman/Old English families while Fianna Fáilers tend to come from Gaelic backgrounds.

“The analysis was carried out by Dr Eoin O’Malley of DCU (a son of former Progressive Democrat leader Des O’Malley) and Dr Kevin Byrne of Trinity College Dublin.

“They based their research on the fact that Irish surnames are among the oldest in the world, dating back many centuries.

“The origin of almost all of those names, whether Gaelic, Norman or English, is known.

“After identifying the surname origin of every one of the 1,100 TDs ever elected, the researchers found significant differences in the distribution of surnames between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

“While 64 per cent of Fianna Fáil TDs have surnames of exclusively Gaelic origin, only 51 per cent of Fine Gael TDs do.

“The opposite pattern is seen for Old English (Norman) and New English surnames, with 22 per cent of Fine Gael TDs bearing names of that origin, but only 12 per cent of Fianna Fáil deputies.

“‘While a surname of a given origin isn’t enough to predict a politician’s party, there is a bias in affiliation toward Fianna Fáil TDs having Gaelic surnames and Fine Gael TDs having Old and New English surnames,’ say the researchers.

“They add that the probability of these differences arising by chance is very remote, so they conclude that the tribal polarisation between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is statistically significant.

“‘In addition, Fianna Fáil has significantly more TDs with Gaelic surnames than would be expected given the Irish population, while Fine Gael has more deputies with Old and New English surnames than a random sampling of Irish citizens would warrant,’ they add….”

so there. (except see here.)

furthermore, whenever you hear about some famous “irish” person, like a scientist or an author, they’re more than likely to have anglo-irish or scots-irish ancestry.

for instance, if you look at this list on wikipedia of famous “irish” scientists (*chuckle*), the vast majority are or were either of scots-irish, old english, or anglo-irish background, not native irish. one or two were even partly or fully of some other ethnic background(s) (i.e. french huguenot and sephardic jewish). i can pick out only seven who are likely candidates for having a (mostly) native irish background: louis brennan, pádraig de brún, nicholas callan, aeneas coffey, richard kirwan (“one of the last supporters of the theory of phlogiston”), william dargan, and john philip holland — and i’m not so sure about dargan or holland (both of those surnames could be either british or irish). so that’s five to seven native irish out of a list of forty “irish”, and i bet most of you have never heard of any of them.

and if we look at “irish” nobel laureates (heh — yes, there have been a couple!), of the science ones, we’ve got ernest walton (physics, 1951) aaaaaand…no, sorry, that’s it. ernest walton. needless to say, walton is an old anglo-saxon name, and ernest’s father was a methodist minister, so probably not very native irish. (maybe there are some native irish laureates in amongst the u.s. or canadian or australian winners. i didn’t get around to checking that.)

and all those famous irish authors? w.b. yeats? anglo-irish. oscar wilde? anglo-irish. bernard shaw? anglo-irish. jonathan swift? anglo-irish. samuel beckett? anglo-irish. bram stoker? anglo-irish. j.m. synge? anglo-irish. clearly overrepresented. (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

can’t even give the native irish much credit for our trademark alcoholic beverages, guinness or jameson. arthur guinness was anglo-irish, although he does appear to have had some native irish roots, so a bit of a mix he was:

“Why Guinness is less Irish than you think”

“MARCH 17th is St Patrick’s day, a celebration of all things Irish—and of one thing in particular. Around Ireland and all over the world people will celebrate with a pint or two (or three, or four) of Guinness, Ireland’s unofficial national intoxicant…. But how Irish is it really?

“Arthur Guinness, who founded the brewery in Dublin in 1759, might have been surprised that his drink would one day become such a potent national symbol. He was a committed unionist and opponent of Irish nationalism, who before the Irish Rebellion of 1798 was even accused of spying for the British authorities. His descendants continued passionately to support unionism — one giving the Ulster Volunteer Force £10,000 in 1913 (about £1m, or $1.7m, in today’s money) to fund a paramilitary campaign to resist Ireland being given legislative independence. The company was alleged to have lent men and equipment to the British army to help crush Irish rebels during the Easter Rising of 1916, afterwards firing members of staff whom it believed to have Irish-nationalist sympathies.

“The beer the company has become most famous for — porter stout — was based on a London ale, a favourite of the street porters of Covent Garden and Billingsgate markets. Since 1886 the firm has floated on the London Stock Exchange, and the company moved its headquarters to London in 1932, where it has been based ever since (it merged with Grand Metropolitan and renamed itself Diageo in 1997)….”

and john jameson was scottish.

my point here is that, given our numbers, the native irish haven’t achieved all that much. comparatively speaking, anyway. we were not the first population to go to space, and we won’t be the first to land on mars.

is any of this a problem? no. is it of any interest? h*ll, yeah! if you want to really know anything about “irish” people or scientists or authors or whatever, you might want to know their true background. same goes for terrorists and isis volunteers.

what’s in a name? INFORMATION!

some people might think that i want to single out immigrants or minority groups when i say that i want to be specific about what they’re called. nothing could be further from the truth. i believe in (can i still say this?!) calling a spade a spade. because THAT tells me something. calling a spade a shovel would misinform me.
_____

p.s. – there is also this theory as to why the native irish haven’t gone to mars first. (~_^)

previously: “core europe” and human accomplishment

(note: comments do not require an email. spade vs. shovel.)

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